About halfway through the 2021 college volleyball season and deep into conference play, I decided to take a look at the best players at every position, right now.
I made two teams, essentially an east and west all-star team. I drew a line down the middle of the country with the dividing line on the Texas and Nebraska border. So that puts teams like Washington, Texas, Baylor, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Nebraska, etc. on the west, and teams like Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Louisville, etc. on the east.
For each team, I chose three hitters (without specifying who will play the right side, I am assuming they will be six-rotation hitters), two middle blockers, a setter, and libero. It is important to note again, that I chose these players based on how they are playing right now.
West all-star team:
Hitter: Logan Eggleston — Texas
Hitter: Yossiana Pressley — Baylor
Hitter: Dani Drews — Utah
Middle blocker: Lauren Stivrins — Nebraska
Middle blocker: Brionne Butler — Texas
Setter: Ella May Powell — Washington
Libero: Lexi Rodriguez — Nebraska
The west side of the country has a lot of good volleyball players, however, I felt pretty solid on my three choices for outside hitters (one would have to play right-side, we will leave that up to the hypothetical coach). Logan Eggleston was a clear pick here, considering she might even be in discussions for Player of the Year this season. Eggleston leads the No. 1 team in the nation in more mays than one, as a leader and scoring machine. She averages 3.67 kills per set, and get this — she has 29 service aces. One of Texas' strongest suits is its serving, and Eggleston is a big part of that.
My next choice had to be Pressley, the 2019 NPOY who is averaging 4.7 kills per set. She can completely take over a match and absolutely terminates balls. Her vertical is insane, her spirit for the game is unmatched, and she was a no-brainer for one of the best players at her position. My third pick was Dani Drews from Utah. Drews is the kind of player that puts up 20 plus kills in a match and she has been one of the most lethal players at her position for years now. Despite Utah not doing as well lately, Drews has been averaging 4.8 kills per set. And when they do pull off big upsets over ranked teams, which does happen often, it is usually largely in part due to Drews.
For the middles, I mostly looked at Heather Gneiting at BYU, Lauren Stivrins at Nebraska and Brionne Butler at Texas.
With Gneiting, you get a crazy good hitting percentage, but she is also playing less ranked teams. I couldn't deny the dominance of Stivrins and Butler, both All-Americans. Stivrins returned to Nebraska after injury and all of a sudden her team won 10 straight matches and everyone around her improved. If anyone is the best at her position, it's Stivrins.
Butler was a first-team All-American, again playing for the No. 1 team in the country. She is hitting .433, she is a great blocker, and when she gets going, she is dangerous. When it came down to it, I wanted Butler on my hypothetical team. Plus, right now, the Longhorns are undefeated and tough to beat.
My setter was an easy pick when you have Ella May Powell as an option at Washington. Powell returns as a first-team All-American after leading her team to the national semifinals last season, and right now, she just led her team to eight straight wins. She is experienced and sets really well for the Huskies.
Lastly, at libero, I looked at Zoe Fleck at UCLA, Elena Oglivie at Stanford and Lexi Rodriguez at Nebraska. Since the focus of this piece is how they are playing right now, I went with Rodriguez. She has been dominating the backcourt for the Huskers as of late and is leading with 4.17 digs per set.
East all-star team:
Hitter: Stephanie Samedy — Minnesota
Hitter: Kayla Lund — Pitt
Hitter: Madi Skinner — Kentucky
Middle blocker: Dana Rettke — Wisconsin
Middle blocker: Anna Stevenson — Louisville
Setter: Sydney Hilley — Wisconsin
Libero: Elena Scott — Louisville
Moving on to the east. The three hitters were tough to choose with a lot of options on the east. You've got Stephanie Samedy, Anna DeBeer, Kayla Lund, Chinaza Ndee, Jonni Parker, Emily Londot, Julia Bergmann — the list seems to go on and on. But, I am going with Stephanie Samedy at Minnesota, Kayla Lund out of Pitt and Madi Skinner at Kentucky.
Samedy is a no brainer — she’d be a clear pick on the east or west team. She is explosive, a great leader, can take over a match, and leads her team with 4.75 kills per set. It feels like it is every other night that we see Samedy post 20-plus kills, and that feeling is apparently correct because she has eight matches with 20-plus kills in 2021. If you watch her play, the talent is undeniable.
.@StephanieSamedy has registered eight matches with 2️⃣0️⃣+ kills this season.— Minnesota Volleyball (@GopherVBall) October 25, 2021
She's the ONLY Power 5 player in America to have more than seven matches with 20+ kills in 2021. pic.twitter.com/wGrz3bH1z0
Next, I think you need Kayla Lund who is leading Pittsburgh, the No. 4 team in the nation with 3.18 kills per set and also has 21 aces on the east all-star roster. Lund was their leader for the past two seasons as well, the two most successful Pittsburgh seasons. She is a powerful arm and a powerful player. The fact that she is so successful, and on the team with the highest RPI this season — she deserves this spot in my book.
Then, the top team in the SEC and the reigning champs, Kentucky's leading scorer Madi Skinner makes it. She is averaging 3.88 kills per set with 13 aces. Her team is ranked No. 5 in the nation right now too. She has been playing great all season, she helped her team win a national title last season and then amped up her game, even more, this year.
The middle situation had even more options in the east than the west, if that was even possible. It was not easy to pick considering you’ve got Dana Rettke at Wisconsin, Lauren Matthews at Western Kentucky, Amaya Tillman and Anna Stevenson at Louisville and Kaitlyn Hord at Penn State.
My picks were clear to me though — Rettke and Stevenson. I’m not sure I need to even make the case for Rettke, who for sure will be in Player of the Year conversations and is one of the best middles I have ever seen. She leads the nation in hitting with a .485 clip, she is third in all-time kills at Wisconsin as a middle, and she leads her team in scoring with 3.73 kills per set, for the No. 3 team in the nation.
Then there is Anna Stevenson, also an obvious one on the No. 2 team in the country — one of the best blocking teams in the country too and the fourth-best in hitting. Stevenson is sixth in the country in hitting at .450, she is the second-leading scorer for the undefeated Cards, she's got 13 aces, and is second on her team in total blocks.
For the setter, I don't think I will receive any arguments for this one. There were great options with Mac Podraza and Tori Dilfer, but Sydney Hilley is a clear pick. She leads the country in assists per set with 12.11, she is a leader, she is an All-American, she is the whole package. She is playing amazing right now and was a huge part of the dominating sweep over Nebraska on Oct. 27.
Lastly, my libero pick out of the east is Elena Scott at Louisville. CC McGraw, Kylie Murr and Lauren Barnes should also receive high post-season honors, but if we are going off of RIGHT now, Scott is anchoring a great defense for one of the last two undefeated teams in the nation. Her digs per set might be lower than the others, but that is because she is playing behind that big Louisville block.